Rebel Sisters

Rebel Sisters by Marita Conlon-Mckenna

Book: Rebel Sisters by Marita Conlon-Mckenna Read Free Book Online
Authors: Marita Conlon-Mckenna
woman, and they believe a young man deserves to be paid. Besides, I far prefer the name to my own,’ she added with a grin.
    Grace found it strange that even at home her sister now preferred them all to call her John instead of Sidney.
    Her youngest sister had changed and grown up so much while Grace had been away in London. She was only eighteen, but she had a mind of her own, together with an unusual confidence and sense of importance about her work. She had joined a group set up by Maud Gonne and Helena Malony, which pledged to fight against English influence in Ireland and to champion the cause of Irish independence and the revival of the Irish language and customs.
    â€˜It’s called Inghinidhe na hEireann,’ John explained.
    â€˜You are talking in Irish!’ Grace laughed.
    â€˜I’m taking classes in the language.’
    â€˜Inghi …’ Grace had no idea how even to attempt to say it.
    â€˜It means “Daughters of Ireland”, but some people call us “the Ninnies”,’ John revealed. ‘Grace, you should come to some of the meetings. They hold lectures and ceilis and debates.’
    John was deeply involved with this organization, but for the moment Grace felt she needed to concentrate her efforts on finding work.
    Father quietly suggested she set up a meeting with his old friend John Butler Yeats’s son, Willie. John Yeats had moved to live in America and Father still missed his old friend and their discussions.
    â€˜The Abbey Theatre is popular and they seem always to be putting on new Irish plays. Most are not really to our taste, but I hear they do well.’
    From her visits to the Abbey, Grace knew that they prided themselves on reflecting Irish culture and tradition on the stage. William Butler Yeats had said nothing when she first met him in the theatre. He had always seemed rather lofty and distant, but now she went to see him and he enquired politely about her parents’ wellbeing as she handed him her portfolio. She knew he had a very keen, critical eye and her spirits sank as he sat across from her in his office, silently studying her work. She was relieved when, looking at her over his dark-rimmed glasses, he told her he considered her design and artwork striking and that it suited the demands of the theatre.
    The Abbey already had a few artists they used, he explained, but he promised to send her the script of a play they planned to stage next year and asked her to submit a sample of her design ideas to them for consideration.
    â€˜Thank you,’ she smiled, gathering up her portfolio. He had made no commitment to using her work, but Grace felt at least he was giving her the opportunity to demonstrate her ideas. The Abbey Theatre, with its strong nationalist focus, was staging work that differed very much from Dublin’s other theatres with their popular London-type productions. She would relish the challenge of working for it.
    Two small newspapers also gave her work, asking her to do some caricature sketches for them, which they used. Mother proudly showed her drawings to everyone.
    â€˜The Daughters of Ireland’ have invited me to attend a committee meeting about the new women’s journal we hope to publish,’ John told her one day. ‘Perhaps they will need some artists and illustrators!’
    Grace did not want to get her hopes up, but she waited anxiously for her sister to return home. She was delighted when John told her that their new journal,
Bean na hEireann
, would be published monthly and would reflect both nationalist and feminist sentiment with a broad appeal and a range of articles from various contributors – and it would most definitely need some illustrative artwork.
    â€˜Countess Constance Markievicz turned up to the meeting in a ball gown and a tiara, straight from an event in Dublin Castle, to offer her services,’ John laughed. ‘Can you imagine her with all the committee ladies in

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